Critical Study of Self-Help and Self-Improvement Practices. Textual, Discursive, and Ethnographic Perspectives

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The contemporary cultural phenomenon of self-help is highly visible and yet inadequately
understood. This study explores the seeming polarization of self-help – the splitting
of the individual (the self) and the collective (the help) – through detailed
ethnographic examination of self-help books and self-help groups. It relates these “poles”
by exploring a central and connecting event, hypothesized as the hyphen in self-help, a
workshop for a group of readers led by a self-help book author.


“It is the great strength of this book that [the author] does not just write with intellectual insight, but also with feeling and great humanity.”-Prof. Michael Billig, Loughborough University

“I was impressed with the quality of the scholarship of the thesis, which is extremely well written and demonstrated a fine analytic sensibility.” -Prof. Steven Brown, Leicester University
-Prof. Malcolm Ashmore, Loughborough University

Table of Contents


Foreword By Michael Billig
,br> Acknowledgements '

Chapter 1 Self-help as "self,"-" and "help"
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Self-help as a contemporary phenomenon
1.3 Self-help books: the "self in self-help
A defense of Sociology: rejecting hyper-individualism
A defense of professional Psychology: rejecting anti-professionalism
A defense of Culture: rejecting the popular and the lowbrow
1.4 Self-help groups: the "help" in self-help
A defense of the sociological: endorsing collectivism
A defense of everyday psychology: endorsing anti-professionalism
A defense of Culture: endorsing the everyday as cultural production
1.5 Engaging the "poles" of self-help: investigating the hyphen
A self-help workshop: naming the hyphen

Chapter 2 The methods chapter
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Social science method
2.3 On Praxeology
2.4 From epistemology to epistemography
2.5 On multiplying and collecting
2.6 Ethnography
Site one: self-help books
Site two: a life-coaching workshop
Site three: self-help groups

Chapter 3 Self-help books and the activity of reading
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The peritext
3.3 Crossing the threshold
3.4 Seducing the reader into reading
Reading as a requirement
Reading as problematic
Thinking as problematic
3.5 Concluding remarks

Chapter 4 Reinvent yourself with Fiona Harrold
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Dialectics of the soul
4.3 Problem formulation
Asking known information questions
The omnirelevance of the workshop
4.4 An expert prescription
Resistance to prescription
Seeking depth
Post-reinvention reports
4.5 Concluding remarks

Chapter 5 Self-help groups and the practical
5.1 Introduction
5.2 The appearance of a common problem
5.3 The disappearance of a common problem
The problem of stigma
The reduction of stigma
Seeking the ordinary
5.4 Concluding remarks

Chapter 6 Discussing the promise of the hyphen in self-help
6.1 Tackling the original problematic
6.2 Mapping self-help
6.3 A newfound significance of the hyphen

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4
Appendix 5



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